Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts reportedly violated U.S. embargo laws against Cuba in 1998 by funneling money to the communist country, and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump allegedly knew about it (video below).
Newsweek bases its new report on the illegal money transaction on statements by "former Trump executives, internal company records and court filings."
According to Newsweek, Trump Hotels spent at least $68,000 on a secret business trip to Havana, Cuba, by passing the money through Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corp., an American consulting firm.
Seven Arrows reportedly told senior executives with Trump Hotels to link their businesses expenses in Cuba to a charitable effort to get around the U.S. embargo law that did not allow a penny to be spent in Cuba at the time without permission.
Trump Hotels made the slight-of-hand payment before Trump launched his first candidacy for president under the Reform Party, reports Newsweek.
Trump made his first political speech to Cuban-Americans in Miami in November 1999, months after Trump Hotels reportedly paid thousands to Cuba via Seven Arrows.
According to Newsweek, on Feb. 8, 1999, Seven Arrows billed Trump Hotels for the $68,551.88 that Seven Arrows had "incurred prior to and including a trip to Cuba on behalf of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc."
Trump didn't mention any of the secret Cuba trip or payment to the Cuban-Americans in Miami. Instead, he gave a tough-talk speech about upholding the embargo:
As you know -- and the people in this room know better than anyone -- putting money and investing money in Cuba right now doesn’t go to the people of Cuba. It goes to [President] Fidel Castro. He’s a murderer. He’s a killer. He’s a bad guy in every respect, and, frankly, the embargo must stand if for no other reason than, if it does stand, he will come down.
The Trump campaign and the Trump Organization did not issue statements to Newsweek, neither did Richard Fields, who was in charge of Seven Arrows at the time.
Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway spoke about it on ABC's "The View" on Sept. 29:
Read the entire story. It starts out with a screaming headline, as it usually does, that he did business in Cuba. And it turns out that he decided not to invest there. If you read the entire story ...
They paid money, as I understand from the story, they paid money in 1998, and we're not supposed to talk about years ago when it comes to the Clintons, but with Trump...
Conway went on to say that Trump had not invested in Cuba, but that was never the issue. The article said that Trump Hotel executives paid at least $68,000 for their expenses to Cuba for their trip, which was against the U.S. embargo law, with Trump's knowledge.
In response to Conway's comments, Kurt Eichenwald, who wrote the Newsweek story, tweeted: "Clearly [Conway] doesn't understand the trade embargo law. She just unknowingly confessed that Trump broke it."
"The money that the Trump company paid to the consultant is money that a Cuban national has an interest in and was spent on an understanding it would be reimbursed," Richard Matheny, chair of Goodwin’s national security and foreign trade regulation group, told Eichenwald in the Newsweek article.
"That would be illegal. If [Office of Foreign Assets Control] discovered this and found there was evidence of willful misconduct, they could have made a referral to the Department of Justice."
(Note: Cuba embargo story starts at 2:30 mark)